In few settings is time more valuable than in an attorney’s office. You pay for your divorce attorney‘s time, so make every second count by asking all the right questions, right from the first visit.
Asking an Attorney The Right Questions
Most teachers will tell you that children do not ask enough questions. The same is true in just about any lopsided relationship — your attorney is the authority, right, and you are the unknowing client. You should trust what your attorney tells you, no questions asked, right?
Wrong! Most teachers will also tell you that no question is a “stupid question,” so ask anything you wish. The worst that could happen, in a classroom or attorney’s office, is your question will have no right answer. Big deal!
Another teacher’s tip: ask questions whose answers give information you can act upon. Asking hypothetical or irrelevant questions is a waste of your money and time. Stay laser-focused on the matter at hand.
Questions are a great way to prevent yourself from slipping into a recitation of all the wrongs she done you. A written list is better than just letting things pop into your head, for one very particular reason, which is …
Time is Money
In most cases, for most Virginia divorce attorneys, cases are billed by the hour. Ask about the fee structure. No need to be bashful or coy about this; you are paying for the time you have with your divorce attorney, so you should know how billing works.
In some cases, an attorney may charge a fixed fee for a particular service and in many cases, they’ll work on a retainer basis. Find out what that would be, too, and ask about their policy for replenishment.
Virginia’s Legal System
Unless you have particularly bad luck or are a particularly poor judge of women, this is your first divorce. You will be far less familiar with Virginia’s legal system, and the process of divorce, than your attorney.
Ask for an elevator talk (two to three minutes) explaining the process. Make sure you get a clear picture of the steps involved, the time the process may take, and the possible outcomes. Our office, for example, has an 8-foot-tall flow chart of the process!
The Nitty Gritty
Ask some general questions about case security:
- Who in the office will have access to my personal information?
- What is your office structure — will communication be directly between you and your attorney, or through paralegals, secretaries, clerks or others?
- How will your documents and financial records be kept secure at your attorney’s office?
Communication is KEY
Ask how you and your attorney or legal team will communicate. When are good times to telephone? Is email best? If you do not hear from your attorney for two weeks, should you worry?
Your case will take a minimum of weeks, if not months or possibly years. During that time, expect to receive information by telephone, email, registered mail, and through in-person contacts. If your work or military duty takes you overseas, you may be using videoconferencing or Facetime.
Keeping in close (but not obsessive) communication is vital for both you and your divorce attorney.
In Virginia, property settlement agreements are the typical vehicles for dealing with all aspects of divorce, including splitting marital assets. Virginia is a state that follows equitable distribution, not community property. Equitable, please note, does not mean “even,” it means “fair.”
Get a clear, 30,000-foot-level view of what this could mean to you financially. An attorney cannot spend the first meeting delving into every retirement account and bank account you have, but you can get a general sense of how the assets will be divided.
Ask your attorney how to deal with your divorcing wife’s attorney. Should you refrain from contacting your soon-to-be ex-wife and her attorney? Should everything go through your divorce lawyer once you hire one?
Ask your attorney what to do when you receive communications from your wife, your wife’s attorney, or Virginia’s courts.
Ask your divorce attorney how your children will be affected by, and managed throughout, the divorce. Does the attorney recommend a particular counselor, or therapist?
Will the attorney want to interview the children? What could happen regarding child custody? Could you move out of state with them after the divorce is final?
Divorces take time, too. Starting a divorce with a child in elementary school, you may not reach the final decree until the child is in middle school. What strategies does your attorney have for helping your children to deal with the drawn-out process?
The initial visit will clear the decks of a lot of your concerns but keep asking questions throughout your divorce. If you hire an experienced attorney; get should your money’s worth.
The best way to have all your questions answered is to contact us at The Firm For Men, or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184. We would be happy to meet with you, discuss your case, and answer your divorce-related questions.